Whenever I think about Kingdom Hearts II and its version from the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX collection, a number of thoughts come to my mind.
The first? “BEST. GAME. IN THE SERIES!” Next? “WHY IS IT SO FUN?”
Kingdom Hearts is a berry blend with a splash of lime — Disney, known for the fun and loving antics of characters like Mickey Mouse, meets Square Enix, known for the Final Fantasy series and crafters of complex characters like Terra Branford and Cloud Strife (and my lovely puppy, Zack Fair), and feelsy stories. Mesh the two together, and you get a fun, yet complex story that puts you in the steps of Disney worlds that you grew up loving such as Neverland from Peter Pan or Agrabah from Aladdin, all while pursuing the notions of good versus evil as you play through the eyes of the main character Sora.
The first story had a lot to build on by the time Kingdom Hearts II came around three years later. But what exactly in the second instalment to this awe-inspiring series is so eventful, so fun, so… nearly perfect in my eyes? What’s more, it was re-released in the HD collection back in 2014 for PS3 and then again in 2017 for PS4… such glorious news, such bountiful luck.
What gave the second game that glimmer of light, that radiance, the familiar ray of hope?
There were so many new features included into the next part of the familiar saga that it was hard to keep up, and the HD could only improve those features from there. The story was phenomenal and had many twists. The gameplay of Kingdom Hearts II improved highly based on the predecessors — it was faster and fluid, which was noticeable in Sora’s swift movements compared to his initial actions in the first game. And as you all know, actions speak just as much as words when it comes to an RPG.
So, here I am to tell you exactly what top features in terms of that gameplay and design aspect you should keep your eyes open for in Kingdom Hearts II, whether you’re a new player of KH and diving into the heart of the second console game, or you’re a longtime veteran that’s working on replaying the saga through the ReMIX versions.
When I first got a hold of HD 2.5 ReMIX, I actually knew very little of the puzzle game that had been introduced in the Final Mix version in Japan (I’m not one to spoil myself on much involving KH unless I crack). But soon after having acquired it, I grew to like it. The puzzle system basically has you running around through each of the worlds in the game, searching for the big, bright glowing crowns. These are your puzzle pieces. As you collect them in your journal, you’re welcome to arrange them accordingly, and if you pull it off, you gain prizes ranging from your simple AP Boost to even more prosperous items, like new weapons.
However, I am faced with my biggest flaw in recovering the pieces when they are in ridiculously hard places to uncover. You have to meet certain criteria, like having Glide Level 3 and High Jump level 3 to reach one piece. It can be really annoying. Fun, but aggravating. Take it in stride.
This was a system introduced in the original KH2. It allowed you to be able to work in literal tandem with your partners loaned to you in other worlds in addition to your main party, compared to just having them just IN your party in the original game. It was a pretty fun concept, and I always have fun using the Limit Trickster with Aladdin, along with Session with Riku — two of my most memorable ones off my head.
The biggest flaw that I had with the Limit system was how, originally, when you first gain the ability to use them, you don’t know all the time that “Auto Limit” is equipped. What’s that, you say? Oh, it’s just a nifty little evil Reaction Command. Why is it bad, you ask? Because if you press it by accident, and you end up using your Limit command, which, by the way, drains ALL of your magic, and makes you break your TV while waiting for it to come back. Try not to die while waiting for Donald to heal you before the magic comes in again! Biggest advice: If you have Auto Limit on… don’t. Just don’t.
5. Theater Mode
You do NOT know how much I appreciated when Square decided to add Theater Mode into the games. It’s especially handy if you skip a cutscene by mistake and miss it. Plus, I edit videos, and I like to actually go through the cutscenes and study them to figure what would fit best where. That’s just one for me; it’s probably less beneficial to the rest of you, but I love it.
4. Reaction Commands
Press triangle, press triangle, press triangle, press — okay, yeah, sorry, it’s true, it’s just triangle mashing. When you first play the game, it’s really fun, and it’s really handy against some of those hard bosses. And you get cool… reactions out of them. I mean, come ON, did you guys SEE the Reaction Command for Sora when he was up against the Storm Rider? Who doesn’t love that one?! There’s no simpler way to explain Reaction Commands; they’re more something that you’d have to experience.
The biggest flaw with something so handy? They make the game entirely too easy. Plus, Limit is an option for a Reaction Command, and you already heard my rant on how that can go.
3. Drive Forms
Oh, THIS is one that we all found love in the moment we were able to transform into cool clothes and dual-wield Keyblades. Drive Forms, the epitome in Kingdom Hearts of all things magical girl… Okay, I’m messing around, but really. Drive Forms are the best addition in gameplay to the second game. Valor, the first one that you obtain, is a massive boost towards your strength for early in the game. Wisdom, great boost towards your magic early on. Then you get Master, which increases both stats, and it’s my personal favorite form of the initial four. Final form, you get by random chance after defeating Roxas and having your stats to a certain point, which is by far the favorite of most people.
In HD 2.5 Remix, there is a fifth Drive Form called Limit Form, the only Drive Form that can be used without a party member, reminiscent to Sora’s original appearance in the original Kingdom Hearts. It focuses on special attacks such as Zantetsuken, Sonic Blade, and Ragnarok, classic fan favorite attacks.
And finally… the cursed Anti-Form, which is your price to pay if you use your Drive Form too much, which is a pretty good balance of the power you hold. “All magic comes with a price,” after all.
2. Absent Silhouettes
This. This part of the game. I loved it so much.
Absent Silhouettes are a new feature into 2.5 Remix that allows you to battle members of Organization XIII. And no, I don’t mean just the canon-based ones you have to fight already. Absent Silhouettes are located about the worlds, and if you step into one, you begin a battle with a member of the Organization that you beat down in Chain of Memories —Vexen (I HATE HIM), Lexeaus (the HARDEST fight of them all for some reason, even though I actually beat him without taking damage in Chain of Memories), Zexion (my favorite fight out of them), Marluxia (THAT fight was fun), and Larxene (the one that I never died to once) — their data intertwined with the portals.
Now, before I hand off my number one, I’d like to give an honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Lingering Will
This one was actually a consensus from the Hypetrain team in adding to this list — everyone loved the addition of this secret boss. And it’s a perfect play-in to those who have played Birth by Sleep. The Lingering Will is insanely strong, and the introduction of him alone is very… sinister, in a sense. So, why isn’t it in my top favorites? Well… Because I never actually took the challenge to face him yet. But one day, I’ll definitely be able to challenge him and it’ll be an epic battle!
With that out of the way, on to my number one favorite feature!
1. The Cavern of Remembrance Data Battles
Here we have it, my absolute favorite feature in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, and it’s a whole new place! The Cavern of Remembrance is unlocked during the Hollow Bastion retribution battle, and it’s basically your Cloister of Trials (Final Fantasy X reference), where you have to have your abilities and your Drive Forms maxed out to the best of your abilities to get through it. It’s an extremely fun place to travel through, and it’s so… steampunk, to a degree.
Now, what are the Data Battles? Data Battles are the ones that you can unlock if you finish the Cavern of Remembrance. I’ve yet to finish any of them, because they are THAT much of a challenge compared to the Absent Silhouettes! But that’s what makes them great! They press a challenge, and they’re fun! I love the atmosphere of the Cavern of Remembrance, and I love the music, it’s so ambient. I really love that place, and to me, it’s the best feature to have been added to the reiterations of Kingdom Hearts II.
What are your favorite features in Kingdom Hearts II/Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix?